December 2, 1999
He Won't Join
by Steve Kettmann
-- As an American, I take my
freedoms for granted. But today, when I went to
order Adolf Hitler's
Kampf from Amazon.com,
I was informed -- disingenuously, in fact -- that
my order could not be processed.
"We're sorry," Amazon.com said. "At this time we
are not able to ship this item to an address
outside the United States."
however, promptly processed my order, and I plan to
spend a few unpleasant days near the end of the
1900s stewing in the ramblings of the man who
unleashed such horror on Europe and the world.
Living in Berlin, where Hitler's famous bunker was
recently unearthed by a construction crew, I do not
have the option of ignoring history.
The German-language edition of Hitler's
political manifesto is banned in Germany, a sign of
just how tender a matter the legacy of World War II
remains. But the recent Amazon ban on shipping
Mein Kampf to Germany
-- not to all of Europe, as claimed -- involves
The German Justice Ministry contends that it
doesn't matter in what language the book is
published; German law still restricts its sale,
though the term "ban" is somewhat
"If you go to a bookshop, the bookseller can
have a look at you and decide if you are really
interested, like if you are a student," explained
Arns Christian, a Justice Ministry
spokesman. "It's not the book that's forbidden,
it's selling it to everyone.
"If you sell it through the Internet, you don't
know who wants to buy the book, you give it to
everybody, and that's forbidden. We can't do
anything against the booksellers in the United
States, because German law is only in Germany, but
what we can do is talk to everybody that has to do
with the matter."
Minister of Justice Herta
Däubler-Gmelin sent letters urging both
Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com to refrain from
shipping the book to Germany. Amazon.com
banned such sales, and Barnesandnoble.com
asked for a complete list of restricted books.
"Until they get this list, they said they can't
do anything, and that's of course wrong," said
Christian. "In Germany it's not allowed to sell
hate literature, literature of the Nazis. They have
to decide on their own. They don't need a list.
Of course there is no such
list. Newer books are I think more dangerous
than Mein Kampf by Hitler. We don't want to have
this literature in everybody's hands. So it has to
be forbidden." © Copyright 1999
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